Getting a business relationship off to a smooth start and ensuring that success continues are not always simple matters; in fact, they can be complicated. Why? My answer: business partnerships are like personal relationships. They’re wrought with expectations and assumptions that are often unspoken or unrealistic, and often, there’s too little communication between the parties. Here are a few ways to increase the odds of establishing and maintaining a mutually beneficial partnership.
- Set the stage before you engage. Make sure that the work styles, personalities, policies and ethics of both partners are aligned. This saves future headaches. I’ve recently begun sharing our firm’s five core values with all our serious prospects. These ideals, which are written on canvases that hang our office walls, are more than simply scripted words. They are essential cues to how we work and who our “right fit” clients are.
- Define success. Don’t assume that your goals and your client partner’s are one-and-the-same. Asking, discussing and agreeing in advance about what the ideal outcomes are clarifies the direction you’re both heading in and the steps it will take to get there together.
- Agree on a plan. Lay out the timeline, tactics and strategic goals of the partnership, then discuss what the day-to-day will entail. Who will be the main point of contact? Who will approve actions or items? What kind of updates or reports will work best? Discuss and layout all of this during the first weeks of working together
- Get to know one another. Time invested up-front and throughout the relationship matters. Let’s face it. You’re going to spend a good deal of time together, solving problems, coming up with solutions and working in tandem. Some partners like to forge a more personal connection, which can help solidify the relationship. Remember, many bridges are built over lunch.
- Try a little trust. My motto is to trust first and assume the best, until someone gives me a reason not to. The thing I’ve learned, however, is that it’s best to partner with a person or company when that trust is mutual. A relationship works both ways. It takes far too much energy to constantly prove yourself to someone who is on guard. Partners should feel confident in their shared synergy and that they are acting in each other’s best interests. And when one party refuses to do the work, it may be a warning sign that he or she is just not that into you.
These five partnership pointers are key, although I’m sure there are more that could be discussed. What are your best tips to set business relationships off to a solid start and, perhaps even more importantly, to keep the client partner love going strong? Write me directly or comment on this article here or on social media. I’d love to hear your thoughts.